Hot Fuzz: set visit
To coincide with our Cops and Robbers special, Chris Tilly watches Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg shoot ’Hot Fuzz‘, their follow-up to ’Shaun of the Dead‘, a tongue-in-cheek homage to Hollywood action flicks
Once cast and crew have taken their positions in front of two cameras and one journalist, there’s barely room to lift a pint, let alone shoot a heated conversation followed by a dramatic bout of gun-play. But that’s what Wright and partner-in-crime Pegg are doing today, as ‘Hot Fuzz’ is an affectionate homage to the 1980s action-flicks they were reared on. Think Tony Scott meets ‘Howard’s Way’ via ‘The Bill’ and ‘Spaced’ – and you’ll get an idea of what Wright and Pegg are aiming at.
‘It occurred to us that the action genre doesn’t exist in this country,’ Wright explains. ‘There haven’t been any films with a policeman, or certainly not a uniformed one, in the lead. Most of the crime films of the last 30 years have revolved around gangsters, so we’re trying to redress the balance with a very English version of what is an American genre.’
Before putting pen to paper, the pair sat down and watched a marathon of foul-mouthed, testosterone-fuelled flicks, from ‘Dirty Harry’ and ‘The Super Cops’ to the Joel Silver and Jerry Bruckheimer canon of the 1980s and 1990s, with particular emphasis on ‘The Last Boy Scout’, ‘Bad Boys 2’ and ‘Point Break’. ‘We watched all the buddy films and all the corruption films, and we didn’t just concentrate on our favourites – we watched the bad ones too. I’d never sat down and watched a Steven Seagal or a Chuck Norris,’ Wright admits. ‘But I have now, I’m sorry to say.’
The pair also spent time with the police force in London and the West Country before carving the story of Nicholas Angel, a ridiculously successful city-cop. In ‘Hot Fuzz’, Angel wins promotion to the rank of sergeant but is simultaneously banished to the crime-free village of Sandford for making the rest of the London-based force look ineffectual.
Pegg plays the infuriating and unpopular Angel, and Time Out’s day on-set, which comes exactly halfway through the 66-day shoot, involves him and police partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost, in hilariously oafish mode) being bullied by two caustic fellow cops (played with just the right balance of humour and menace by Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall).
‘We wanted to create a character who is the complete antithesis to the “Lock, Stock” boy,’ explains Pegg. ‘He’s dedicated, extraordinarily conscientious and very good at what he does. He’s nice, but a bit anal and humourless and confused by anything that isn’t driven by logic.’
Angel’s curiosity is stirred by the peculiar cast of characters that inhabit Sandford, and the filmmakers assembled a who’s who of British acting and comedy talent to play the eccentric locals. As Wright explains: ‘Because of the nature of the story, with characters intertwining and events intersecting, I really wanted to create a great ensemble, not only for the cops, but also for the villagers.’
Wherever I look, there are famous faces, from Edward Woodward and Billie Whitelaw drinking tea by the catering van to Timothy Dalton and Jim Broadbent sharing a joke outside the pub. The world of comedy is well represented too, with Steve Coogan, Martin Freeman, Kevin Eldon, Bill Bailey and Olivia Colman providing light relief, while two Oscar-winning Hollywood heavyweights also make blink-and-you’ll-miss them cameos (but Wright won’t reveal who they are).
‘It’s strange how it happens sometimes,’ says Wright of the casting process, which lasted for much of pre-production. ‘We met Jim Broadbent at the BAFTAs and he said he really liked “Shaun…” and asked if we could keep him in mind. So we wrote a role for him. It was the same with Paddy Considine. But for Timothy Dalton’s character, we wrote it as a “Timothy Dalton-type”. It didn’t occur to us until quite late in the game to actually approach him.’
Dalton agreed, as did pretty much everyone else. But in spite of a bigger cast, more money and loftier ambitions, there’s no getting around the fact that, three years on from ‘Shaun of the Dead’, Wright and I are conversing in the confined constraints of an even smaller boozer than last time. ‘Well you couldn’t make “Hot Fuzz” without a pub,’ he explains, as cast and crew squeeze in for the afternoon shoot. ‘Because in a small English village, things centre around the pub – it’s part of daily life – there’s no getting around that. But I’m bloody sick of them now; you won’t see me filming in one anytime soon, that’s for sure.’
‘Hot Fuzz’ opens on Feb 14.
Author: Chris Tilly
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